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Solidarity Weekend 2017

Love Lives Here, End White Supremacy banner, artistic leadership by Deb Reynolds

Below I offer some words and reflections written immediately following the Solidarity Weekend full-day counter protest on September 30, 2017, in Nogojiwanong (Peterborough) on the land of the Mississauga Anishinaabe – these words are circulating already on social media. Aging Activisms was honoured to be there in an organizing capacity as well as in our role as researchers. We carried out interviews all weekend on the streets, recording people’s perspectives on what was taking place and how this weekend came together. Unlike the immediacy of the media and social media, we will take a bit of time now with these collected stories, to process and consider what was shared and how best to make this available to the community. We will create some media capsules of the weekend, and work toward a more nuanced and sophisticated analysis as well, so please stay tuned and thanks in advance for your patience. This was a learning for all of us and we are extremely grateful to everyone who came out, for all the different ways people found to express their solidarity, and to those who took the time to share with us.

We would like to send our most sincere thanks to all of the people who also spoke, sang, drummed, and performed publicly, for your wisdom and courage, for the way you thoughtfully set the tone, and for your calls to action: Elder Shirley Williams, Elder Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, Liz Osawamick, Dawn Lavell-Harvard, James Mixemong, Desmond Cole, Arshad Desai, Niambi Leigh, Penelope Klees, Charmaine Magumbe, Ziy von B, Kemi Akapo, Brendan Campbell, the Raging Grannies, and others too (if I forgot you, please forgive me – it has been a long weekend!). And thank you to all who came out on Sunday as well, and especially Little Bear, Crystal, Brendan, and Deb Reynolds. All of you: we saw you and heard you. We stand with you. We appreciate every word, beat, chant, and rhyme, and smudge. Thank you. Chi miigwetch.

Written on the eve of Saturday September 30th:

I’m incredibly proud of my community today. I have no idea what the media is saying right now and am too tired to find out, but I suspect that, as with so many rallies, the reporting is going to be narrow and possibly misleading. So let me tell you what I witnessed:

  • Community organizers across 3 generations and so many backgrounds came together, with about two weeks to organize against a white supremacist rally, and with the information available changing each day. Some knew each other, many did not. We had many different perspectives, tactics, approaches, and ideologies, and still we worked together intensely and closely every single day, long long days… to figure out how to respond.

  • Last week, we collectively wrote and circulated a unity statement, denouncing racism, colonialism and white supremacy. We said in no uncertain terms we are not willing to have this kind of nonsense paraded out on our streets. Some 2000 people signed, in less than a week. It was signed by the school boards, the police department, the public health unit, businesses, NGOs, churches, the synagogue, student groups, First Nations groups, and the list goes on.

  • Today, 1000 people turned out (in a small city!) to say no to white supremacy and to stop a planned neo-Nazi, white nationalist rally. The day opened with a smudge and blessing of two incredible and fierce Elders. Drumming and singing followed. Two full hours of incredible speeches, poetry, and sharing of experiences. The Raging Grannies were there in their gear. We round danced to beautiful beats. There was soulful art-making taking place all day. The no-hate banner created by hundreds of hands, all ages, is going to be presented to the City Hall on Monday. There was a powerful drum circle led by a minister in the community too. And a dance party on the lawn.

  • And while hundreds gathered this way on the church lawn, across the street, where the white supremacist rally was meant to happen, hundreds more gathered, marching with drums and placards. There were clowns about. Folks holding large banners. They were saying NO. No way are we going to put up with this. They were taking direct action in many different ways. It was peaceful, it was powerful…

  • And the planned rally? Yeah, a few folks turned out. They provoked, as suspected. And there was one very minor incident. A white supremacist entered the space and provoked; one protester retaliated. There was a small altercation, no one badly hurt. The protester was arrested but released immediately (not even taken to station) after the crowd of hundreds surrounded the car chanting to them her go. Then the police backed right off, and the crowd went back into beautiful displays of resistance. A drum circle resumed. In a 10 hour day, there were 10 tense minutes.

There is still loads of work to be done here. But I am here to say that I am so incredibly grateful to this gorgeous community. Grateful to live on Mississauga Anishinaabe land. Feeling blessed. Re-committing myself to the work of ending white supremacy. Love lives here.

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